The title and cover of “The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook” which was on display at my library caught my attention; it appeared to warrant closer examination and possibly a cookbook review. I’m always on the look-out for a “best cookbook” that I might want to purchase for my collection.
As an avid reader and collector of recipes for many years, including those featured in the New York Times, I have read many recipes, food reviews and book reviews either by or about the persons mentioned on the cover of this cookbook – Mark Bittman, Mario Batali, Alice Waters, Nigella Lawson and Lee Bailey. The cookbook features recipes from many other notables, of course.
Even after some study of the recipes and topics in “The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook,” the rather ambiguous “country weekend” theme is difficult to define. Book editor Linda Amster indicates in her preface that the target audience for this recipe collection is the individual or family on a weekend getaway seeking “relaxed cooking and more enjoyable eating.”
Amster uses the following chapter headings in this cookbook:
The cocktail hour
Quick suppers after a long trip
Breakfasts and brunches to start the day
Lunches at the beach, near the lake or on a cool and shady back porch
A visit to the farm stand
Dinner: the main event
Back to the city
It should be noted that this recipe collection has more than two hundred recipes that were created by food professionals and are perhaps a bit complex for a novice cook. They require a fair amount of work space and equipment along with adequate preparation time; some recipes call for unusual or even hard-to-find ingredients.
The editor culled the chosen recipes from an archive of material previously published by the New York Times, such recipes being considered as tried and true before they reached the pages of this cookbook.
Although a large number of the recipes have what is described in the book as an “innovative flair,” there are some easier classic family favorites that require less expertise and have been tweaked by professionals to give them a touch of extra “class.”
As I read through the recipes in “The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook” in preparation for this cookbook review, a puzzler for me was how to pigeon-hole the intended audience. Some questions I had were “who is going where, for whom are they cooking, and why are more complicated recipes being recommended for a “relaxed” weekend?”
In the heartland where I live, preparation for a country weekend places a focus on fairly simple recipes for stays at a cabin or for outdoor recreational cooking.
However, the style of living highlighted through the chapter topics in this book might invite such readers to try a change of pace. Using the recipes in this cookbook as a guideline, it could be enjoyable to plan a more “upscale” weekend getaway compared with planning simpler meals to be served at a cabin or around a campfire.
Also, any of these recipes could be prepared and served in the home without requiring any getaway at all.
A significant negative factor for “The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook” is the omission of nutritional data, something that diminishes the usefulness of any cookbook for many readers.
A recipe planner in chart format (inconveniently printed sideways on its pages) is included at the back of the book with information for each recipe about preparation and cooking time, cooking method, number of servings, and suitability for serving to company.
I might consider purchasing “The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook” as a future addition to those on my bookshelf as there are at least a dozen recipes that I would like to prepare, but purchase of this cookbook would not be at the top of my list as the majority of the included recipes would get a pass by me for various reasons.
The recipes have been created by food professionals and therefore may not be typical fare for individuals or families on a relaxing weekend getaway.
Because of this, my advice is to look at a library copy of “The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook” prior to making a purchase to see if the editor’s idea of a country weekend is in line with yours, and to determine if there are enough recipes in this collection that you would actually prepare.
Amster, Linda (Editor), The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook, New York, NY, St. Martin’s Press, 2007.